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An Open Letter To President Jiang Zemin

August 27, 2000

Your Excellency:

As representatives of the world's literary community, the undersigned writers wish to express profound concern about the recent arrest and detention of our colleague Bei Ling, who was apparently seized by Beijing police on Friday, Aug. 11. Mr. Bei, 40, had just returned from visiting relatives in Shanghai to conduct a forum on the latest issue of his literary periodical, Tendency Quarterly, when the arrest occurred. Hundreds of copies of the magazine were later seized by the police.

In view of the serious literary character of Tendency, Mr. Bei's arrest represents an especially alarming escalation of the repressive and inhumane treatment of dissident writers and intellectuals in China during recent months. He has lived in Cambridge, Mass., for seven years, including a period as an instructor of Chinese at Harvard University, while working as editor-in-chief of Tendency. With this periodical, Mr. Bei has worked to bring the cultures of East and West closer together by publishing dialogues between Chinese and Western intellectuals, as well as interviews with distinguished writers and scholars. It is a publication with which several of the undersigned have been directly involved.

In light of the upcoming U.S. Senate vote on granting China permanent normal trade relations, the arrest of this respected writer is a poor indication of your country's willingness to uphold internationally recognized principles of democracy and free expression for your people. Mr. Bei's serious and persistent efforts to contribute to international literary culture compel us to insist that his treatment be taken into account in connection with the upcoming vote. We will make it clear in no uncertain terms that for China to take its place within the community of nations, it must adhere to international standards in relation to human rights.

We protest in the strongest terms the arrest of our colleague, and call for his immediate and unconditional release.

Sincerely,

Homero Aridjis, Nadine Gordimer

Seamus Heaney, Arthur Miller

Czeslaw Milosz, Susan Sontag

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